Georgia judge dismisses car crash claims against Snapchat

Given the staggering number of serious and fatal motor vehicle accidents attributed to distracted driving -- particularly those involving the use of a smartphone while behind the wheel -- it was perhaps only a matter of time before the question arose as to whether liability rests with more than just the negligent motorist.

Indeed, there has recently been an uptick in the number of lawsuits seeking to hold smartphone manufacturers and companies behind popular apps liable for the injuries suffered and losses sustained in motor vehicle accidents. By way of example, consider a lawsuit filed against the ubiquitous mobile app Snapchat right here in Georgia.

For those unfamiliar with Snapchat, it's a messaging app that enables users to send both pictures and videos that essentially self-destruct within seconds of their being viewed by recipients.

In the aforementioned Georgia lawsuit, a couple pursued legal action against both Snapchat and a 19-year-old driver who allegedly ran them off the road back in September 2015 while using the app.

Specifically, the complaint accused the 19-year-old driver of using a Snapchat filter that overlays the speed at which a vehicle is traveling over an image while driving on a highway south of Atlanta.

While attempting to capture a picture showing herself going 100 miles-per-hour, the complaint argues, the driver hit the plaintiff's vehicle, sending it into an embankment and causing one of the parties to suffer brain damage.

In recent events, the presiding judge dismissed the claims against Snapchat, but not the driver, last Friday, arguing that even if the company was found to be under a legal duty to remove or restrict access to the so-called speed filter used by the 19-year-old driver, such a duty would derive from its status as a publisher.

This is significant, wrote the judge, as the Communications Decency Act of 1996 grants a publisher immunity on these grounds, reading in part, "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”          

Snapchat was understandably pleased with the ruling, arguing that it would help prevent a "flood of lawsuits" shifting the blame away from negligent drivers. The attorney representing the plaintiffs, however, indicated that his clients were strongly considering filing an appeal.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a crash caused by a negligent motorist, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options for pursuing justice.

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